Bath salts can cause severe effects. Most of the effects are short-term and incredibly dangerous, including a break from reality, tremors, chest pain, and extreme agitation. Long-term effects can include addiction.
Overdose is a serious short-term effect that could result in death.
What are Bath Salts?
Bath salts is a slang term for synthetic cathinones, which are dangerous stimulant drugs. They appeared as a huge problem in Florida and then spread through the rest of the country around 2012.
They are human-made stimulants, unlike cocaine, which comes from a plant. Bath salts are more chemically similar to MDMA, or ecstasy or Molly, being in the cathinone family. Drugs sold as Molly are often based on a plant found in East Africa, called khat.
This drug is typically found as a white or brownish crystalline powder, sold in small foil packages with bright colors and labeled “not for human consumption.” They may also be named plant food or glass cleaner.
These labels are to get around import laws in the United States. While many cities and states around the country have banned specific types of cathinones, like the chemical in bath salts, clandestine laboratories tweak the formula and sell a new chemical, which is technically legal.
Bath salts and stimulants related to it are very dangerous. Law enforcement and medical professionals are concerned about the potency of synthetic substances like these drugs, which are part of a larger group of new psychoactive substances (NPS).
Based on information published by scientific researchers, chemicals in the NPS family imitate marijuana, cocaine, or similar popular drugs, but they have much stronger, more unpredictable effects.
The Physical and Mental Impact of Bath Salts
People who abuse bath salts typically crush and snort the crystals or smoke the drug. They may also inject these drugs after mixing them with water or alcohol. It is rare for someone to eat a synthetic cathinone like bath salts, but it can happen.
The effects, both physical and mental, from abusing bath salts can last for unpredictable amounts of time, ranging from hours to days.
It is understood that bath salts cause a surge of dopamine, along with serotonin, like other stimulants, which increases mental and physical alertness. However, the size of the dopamine surge is unpredictable.
Since these drugs are new, not thoroughly studied, and unregulated, the amount of cathinone in any package of bath salts is completely unknown. When a drug is difficult to dose, it is tough to know which side effects are symptoms of intoxication and which are symptoms of an overdose.
These include shaking or tremors, nosebleeds, elevated body temperature (hyperthermia), excessive sweating, red or flushed skin, elevated heart rate, high blood pressure, pounding heart, chest pain, nausea and vomiting, other stomach problems, dizziness, muscle spasms or twinges, and seizures.
As the drug wears out of the body, physical reaction times will slow down, and the person will become sluggish.
People who abuse bath salts are more likely to break from reality and not respond to signals from their body that they are sweating too much and failing to drink water, which can lead to extreme dehydration.
In turn, being dehydrated for too long can lead to the breakdown of skeletal muscle tissue, which floods the bloodstream with toxins and can cause the kidneys to shut down.
Abusing bath salts has also resulted in sudden death, usually from a stroke or a seizure.
Much of the information on bath salts comes from emergency room reports, as many people who abuse the drug suffer acute, short-term effects that are so intense, they require medical treatment.
Between 2010 and 2012, the number of calls to poison control centers around the U.S. related to bath salts rose from 304 in 2010 to 6,138 in 2011.
It then went down to 2,251 in 2012.
Intense and Dangerous Short-Term Effects
Since bath salts are a relatively new substance of abuse, there is little information on potential long-term effects; however, the short-term effects of this drug can be devastating. Overdose, rhabdomyolysis, psychosis, and death are potential outcomes from abusing bath salts. These acute effects are difficult to stop, and they require hospitalization as soon as possible.
Most acute, or short-term, effects begin 15 minutes after the drug is consumed. The high, which is more likely to be uncomfortable than euphoric, will last at least four to six hours. Sometimes, bath salt highs last for a day or two due to psychotic symptoms.
Long term, there is evidence that bath salts can lead to addiction and physical dependence. Withdrawal symptoms have been noted in some people who abuse this drug, which is a sign that the brain needs the presence of the chemical to feel normal.
Withdrawal Symptoms Include the Following:
- Physical tremors
- Trouble sleeping, including insomnia and night terrors
Cravings are most likely to lead to relapse to substance abuse. It is important to find a detox program that can help you manage the experience of withdrawal and then enter a rehabilitation program for behavioral treatment.
End Bath Salts Abuse
While there are no medications that can ease withdrawal symptoms, as there are for drugs like opioids or alcohol, entering a detox program is still very important. Medical professionals can monitor your symptoms and ease physical pain and stress along the way.
After safely detoxing, the next step is to enter a rehabilitation program for behavioral therapy. Counseling based in cognitive-behavioral practices will help you understand the root causes of your addiction, manage cravings and triggers, and re-enter daily life free from drugs.